Celtic Connections review: Buika/Mayra Andrade, Glasgow

World music line-ups featuring first-time Celtic Connections performers are always among the toughest sells, especially just after much of its audience has partied over the opening weekend, and is now attempting to keep some powder dry, what with nearly a fortnight still to go.

Extraordinary Mallorcan-born singer María Concepción Balboa Buika
Extraordinary Mallorcan-born singer María Concepción Balboa Buika

Buika/ Mayra Andrade - Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

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It was thus a small but appreciative crowd that gathered for this Spanish/Cape Verdean pairing of potent female singers, each of whose primary nationality disguises a much broader cultural lineage.

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    The daughter of political exiles from Equatorial Guinea, and now resident in Miami, the extraordinary Mallorcan-born diva María Concepción Balboa Buika sounded most immediately like Portuguese fado star Mariza, with echoes of Nina Simone’s profound gravitas. While her volcanically volatile, flamenco-rooted style delivered many electrifying moments, including the anguished yet self-affirmatory Loneliness/Soledad and a magnificent version of Ne Me Quitte Pas, her more shamanic outpourings came to dominate an increasingly eccentric performance, which slid from compelling to exasperating.

    Mayra Andrade’s opening set, by contrast, was captivating from start to finish. Paris-based, she was born in Cuba, and also taps into Cape Verde’s close musical links with Brazil.

    Her set here additionally took in elements of jazz, chanson, ska, cabaret, torch-song, power-pop, and even a dash of rockabilly, matching sensuously elastic vocals with highly sophisticated songwriting.